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"well, duh!" - informal linguistic accuracy

Posted by Anders on October 20, 2003

Word Camel's thread "Formal vs. informal speech," cf. below, or, more specifically, the article to which it links, got me thinking. (Enough to start a new thread, I hope.)
Informal speech can be spot-on. You see that in sitcoms in particular. Think of Phoebe (from Friends) saying "Well, duh!" I guess here the major comic effect derives from the irony of a simpleton, i.e. Phoebe, implying that someone is obviously stupid. That is, you laugh as Phoebe shows herself to be not only a dumb blonde, but an arrogant dumb blonde. (It's not that I dislike her; such is her character.)

My favorite show is Will & Grace, though. I love it for its double entendres and fast pace. I can't find any examples off the top of my head that supports my argument. However, the fact remains that there's nothing wrong with, or inaccurate about, informal language. If one restricts oneself to it, leaving out formal language, that's degrading, needless to say. But so is leaving out colloquialisms and slang, I believe, as there are things you can't put into formal language. Let us go with Frazier, another show I love, as it has both - and forever mocks the snobbish aspirations, linguistic and otherwise, of the Crane brothers.